3 East Texas Kids to Participate in Star-Studded Cancer Benefit
April 22, 2018 - Longview News-Journal
For 8-year-old Nory Hearron, a trip to Dallas usually means a daylong medical checkup, but Friday, it’ll be all about the fancy dress.
The White Oak School Primary School student is one of three area children battling cancer who have been chosen to strut their stuff at a star-studded gala.
Along with Nory, 11-year-old Braylon Clark and 5-year-old Mason McGaughey, both of Longview, were chosen to model during the 30th annual Children’s Cancer Fund Gala.
The Children’s Cancer Fund raises money for pediatric cancer research and treatment. The area youngsters were chosen to participate in the gala through an application process open to children ages 5 to 15 who are receiving treatment at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. Former Dallas Cowboy quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman are among several celebrities and sponsors who will serve as runway escorts.
Braylon was diagnosed with a stage 4 Wilms tumor in February 2017 after two months of doctor visits.
“Around late December 2016, I was getting really nauseous, having fevers and stuff, so my mom took me to the doctor,” Braylon said.
Jennifer Singleton, his mother, recalled receiving calls from her son’s school to relay his symptoms.
“I was at work and I would just take him to (a) quick care clinic after I got off from work and they just said the first two times, ‘Oh, it’s just the stomach virus,’ and sent him home,” she said.
After the third phone call, Singleton said her concern grew, and she took him to his pediatrician.
“They were examining me and found a lump on my stomach,” her son said. “I noticed the little lump on my stomach, but I thought it was because I was eating too much.”
After Braylon’s pediatrician did a full physical exam and saw the tumor, the doctor recommended the boy get examined at the Dallas hospital, Singleton said.
“Two days later, we were in Dallas,” she said. “He has a Wilms tumor, but they didn’t think that because he’s out of the age range. He’s older than the typical age.”
Usually, Wilms tumors are found inside of the kidney. Braylon’s was on the outside.
“His was a little different because his was sitting on top of his kidney, so they just removed the tumor. He still had radiation and chemo, but they didn’t have to remove his kidney,” Singleton said.
Going to Dallas every week was “tough at first,” but the 11-year-old said he got used it.
“In the beginning, it was just once a week and after he got the tumor removed, they saw the cancer was more aggressive than they thought,” Singleton said, describing how treatments became more frequent.
Braylon finished his last treatment on March 12. He’ll have his port removed soon, his mother said, and he’ll return to Dallas regularly for checkups.
Because of his treatment schedule, Braylon has been participating in homebound education, with an instructor visiting him at his house. Singleton said she expects Braylon to attend classes at Spring Hill Junior High School in August.
Braylon, an avid gamer, wants to develop video games when he grows up.
“I have all of these ideas in my head for video games,” he said. “Whenever I see games, I’m like ‘Oh, this should’ve been in there.’ ”
He plays Nintendo Switch games to de-stress, but sometimes he plays Donkey Kong Country and Mario Party with his mom.
Braylon’s cancer diagnosis brought the pair closer, he said.
Singleton and Braylon started Braylon’s Blessings, a nonprofit that will donate Uber Eats gift cards for families on extended hospital stays.
“After a week, I was like ‘I don’t want to eat this hospital food anymore,’ ” Braylon said.
Singleton ordered food using Uber Eats, an app-based food delivery service.
“We did a lot of Uber Eats and it adds up,” his mother said. “We’ll deliver Uber Eats gift cards (as) a small token to say ‘Hey, we’re thinking about you. We’ve been through this journey. We know how it is,’ and just take some of that burden off.”
More information about Braylon’s Blessings, can be found on Facebook, Singleton said.
Braylon said he looks forward to showing off his island-themed outfit on the runway.
Six years ago, Nory Hearron’s pediatrician diagnosed her with a stomach virus, said her mother, Jennifer Hearron.
“I’d take her to the doctor once a week (with) more fevers and no answers,” Nory’s mom said.
Nory’s dad, Bryan Hearron, came home from a business trip and noticed that his daughter wasn’t her naturally bubbly self. He urged his wife to take Nory to the hospital, Jennifer Hearron said.
“Once they ran the blood work and realized something major was going on, they had secretly contacted oncology and I didn’t know it. So all night long, the nurses were stalling,” Nory’s mother said. “When the doctor walked in, she had her oncology lab coat on and just sat down next to me, held my hand and explained that she has leukemia. We didn’t know what type yet.”
Nory was diagnosed on Valentine’s Day that year with an advanced stage of chronic myeloid leukemia.
“Normally a gentleman in his 50s is the typical patient for this type of leukemia, so it was shocking when we found out Nory had it,” Jennifer Hearron said. “A gentleman in his 50s could start his chemo and do well on it for the rest of his life. However, a 2 year old, they don’t know. She can do well on it for a time, but we don’t know how long.”
Nory started treatment at Children’s, with doctors initially calling for a bone marrow transplant.
“We did matching within the family and realized that one of her brothers was a match and kind of made that our target, but again, her body continued to do well on the medication and that’s where we’ve been ever since,” her mother said. “We’ve stayed on the medication for six years now, and she’s doing good.”
On Valentine’s Day, Nory gives goody bags to hospitalized children.
“That particular day of February was the day we found out her official diagnosis, so every year since then, we’ve taken goodies for the kids that are in-patient or clinic,” Jennifer Hearron said.
Since the Hearrons moved to White Oak, community members donate candy and notes of encouragement to the cause, her mother said.
“I like candy that we get,” Nory said. “I get to go on stage to walk the runway with a local celebrity.”
Her mother said Nory picked out “a really fancy dress to wear and fancy shoes.”
“They’re keeping (the dress) there in Dallas so it’s safe,” her mother said.
Because doctor offices were closed for the Christmas holiday, Mason’s mom, Patricia McGaughey, took the then 2-year-old to the emergency room for a high fever.
“We took him to the ER and the doctor was like, ‘It’s an ear infection. We’ll start on antibiotics,’ ” she said. “We were like, ‘Awesome, (it’s an) ear infection. By the time it gets to Christmas, he’ll be able to have fun.’ ”
His condition got worse as days went on. At its highest, his temperature was 104 degrees. The McGaughey family powered through Christmas before taking him back to the ER.
Mason was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, she said.
“Their treatments are longer because the blood recycles itself naturally ... Because of that, it took one cell — it was off — one leukemia cell in the blood to explode to become the leukemia he has,” Patricia said. “It can only take one to do the same thing again. It’ll be able three and a half years before he’s finished.”
Mason goes to Dallas for chemotherapy once a month. Because he has a port and is at risk for infection, he goes to the ER if he has a high fever, Patricia said.
“Every third month is a lumbar puncture visit, which is when they stick a needle in your back, pull out some fluid and test it ... because if leukemia is going to relapse it’s going relapse in your CSF, which is your spinal fluid,” she said.
During his first month of treatment, he stopped walking and lost his hair. For solidarity, his older brother and dad shaved their heads.
One effect of Mason’s diagnosis is neuropathy, or weakness within the limbs that causes difficulties when walking or playing. He goes to physical therapy and wears ankle-foot braces to help stabilize his feet, Patricia McGaughey said.
Mason is usually anxious on treatment day, but if he has his favorite blanket — a green, tattered blanket embroidered with his name — he’s OK.
When they’re not in Dallas, the family has movie nights at home, his mom said.
Mason has said he’s excited to go to the gala because he gets to “see some Cowboys and show off,” according to information from the Children’s Caner Fund.
“I’m really excited to see his personality. I’m really excited to ... watch him have fun,” his mother said. “He was diagnosed the day after Christmas (in) 2015. Since then, we’ve had several not-so-fun moments, sad moments and scary moments. So it’s always fun to see him be a kid.”
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